by Chris Doyle
Development Specialist for Baptist Village Communities
“Now to Him Who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Eph. 3:20-21
God works in ways beyond the understanding of His followers. Sometimes, He allows them to see specifically how He works years after a tragic experience.
For those who knew Justin Sullivan, they have the privilege of witnessing God impacting many lives through a book and a baseball team.
Ten years ago, Sullivan died in a car accident. He was killed when the back wheels of a semi-tractor trailer broke off the truck, crossed the center median and killed him instantly.
The 18-year-old was valedictorian at Yukon High School and an all-star catcher. On the day before Sullivan died, he was named Baseball Player of the Year by The Oklahoman.
Major league baseball was in Sullivan’s future. He was described as an exceptional athlete, an exceptional student and an exceptional competitor.
Chris Wall served as Sullivan’s youth pastor, and often he told Justin that all he wanted was tickets to watch him play in the big leagues. However, that did not come to pass.
Wall remembers being at the hospital where they pronounced Sullivan dead and praying, “God, I thought you were going to use Justin to influence major league baseball.”
In a day leading up to Sullivan’s funeral, many gathered for a time of sharing, which prompted Sullivan’s mom to share with Wall a study journal that Sullivan used. Wall scanned the pages of Sullivan’s journal and was amazed at the passages he was reading.
“Here’s this jock,” Wall said, “and he’s taking the time to be intellectual and deep and philosophic. I just couldn’t believe it when I read it.”
Wall took the next couple of years to create a devotional journal titled A Life Worth Following, based on Sullivan’s writings and stories from Sullivan’s life. With a brown leather cover that simulates the look and smell of a baseball glove, the journal is accompanied by a bracelet, designed by Sullivan’s grandfather, which resembles the seams of a baseball.
Readers are encouraged to go through an eight-week study using the journal to learn how to begin “a consistent walk with God while encountering Justin’s incredible journey with the Lord during the last six months of his life.”
The journal prompted the creation of the Justin Sullivan A.L.W.F. Foundation, organized to support baseball clinics for underprivileged children, baseball tournaments and baseball mission experiences.
In 2008, a summer baseball team called the Ambassadors was organized, featuring upcoming high school seniors and recent graduates who conduct baseball clinics in churches while also playing in tournaments around the country and internationally. After each game, win or lose, the Ambassadors share their testimony of faith with members of the opposing teams.
Recently, the Ambassadors hosted the Justin Sullivan Memorial Tournament with many teams across the region competing. On the final day of the tournament, coach Adrian Savedra shared with the other teams Justin’s story, and instead of handing out trophies, each participant received a copy of A Life Worth Following journal.
Wall, who now serves as senior pastor at Owasso, First, receives orders across the country for the journal. A woman from California called him because her son recently was selected in the Major League Baseball draft, and she wanted him to have the journal.
A young man who previously participated in Justin’s memorial tournament remembered Wall sharing Justin’s story and called Wall because he was struggling with the death of his grandfather. Wall prayed with him over the phone and led him to Christ.
“There have been so many amazing things,” Wall said. “This has been proof to me that God is real, and that He is purposeful in life and in death. I have watched God do things that just cause me to sit down and say that’s only explainable by the hand of God.”
Last year, Wall was asked to speak to the Atlanta Braves before a game late in the season. After he shared Justin’s story, Braves’ pitcher Scott Lanebrink went to Wall and told him he recently began a spiritual journal.
When Wall was back in the hospital questioning God about using Justin to influence major league baseball, all he needed was patience.
Using the A Life Worth Remembering journal, participants are challenged to memorize Eph. 3:14-21. Now, Wall sees an even greater significance of that passage.
“The passage talks about how God is able to do above and beyond all that we can ask or think according to the power that works through us impacting all generations,” he said. “Here we are in the next generation of baseball players, and God is still using Justin and his story to not only inspire baseball players to do well, but also to talk about Jesus.”
For more information about Justin Sullivan and the Ambassadors baseball team, go to www.alifeworthfollowing.org.